|Police and Advocates Push for Sobering Centres|
November 30, 2010
A group of non-profit organizations, along with police, health authorities, first responders and housing groups will be at a meeting convened by the BCCLA to discuss how to save the lives of those who are arrested for being drunk, high or otherwise intoxicated in public. The event will be live online at http://www.mywebtvhost.com/members/bccla/
The meeting, also sponsored by the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs, the Elizabeth Fry Society, and the Frank Paul Society, will focus on alcohol harm reduction and feature speakers from the RCMP and Vancouver Police Department, as well as speakers from Portland’s Sobering Station and Toronto’s Seaton House
“This issue is beyond debate,” said Grand Chief Stewart Phillip of the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs. “We must organize ourselves to work on this pressing issue, explore real solutions and to send a strong message to the province that they have must act immediately on one of the key recommendations of the Frank Paul Inquiry.”
The Vancouver Police Department had fully developed plans for a sobering centre that was never funded by the province. The RCMP advises the BCCLA they are currently working in the Yukon to establish a sobering centre in Whitehorse.
“The Frank Paul Inquiry first phase report recommended the implementation of sobering centres to save lives,” said David Dennis, President of the Frank Paul Society, noting that three of the eight B.C. coroner’s inquests held this year into in-custody deaths recommended the establishment of sobering centres for the same reason.
“The point for us is that a minimum of 18 people between 2008 and 2010 would likely not have died had they received medical supervision and attention in sobering centres,” said Shawn Bayes, Executive Director of the Elizabeth Fry Society.
There is no natural constituency to push for attention to this issue,” noted Robert Holmes, President of the BCCLA. “Groups of homeless, chronic alcoholics are not going to make their way to Victoria to lobby for this. Police departments under budget constraints are not going to have this at the top of their list. Yet the public is getting tired of hand-wringing after each death occurs. So we have decided to give a voice to those who otherwise won’t be heard. We’re thankful others are partnering with us and we ask the public to join in calling for government to deal with it.”
Recent coroner’s inquests calling for sobering centres, compiled by the Elizabeth Fry Society:
According to figures compiled by the Elizabeth Fry Society, there were twenty-three inquests into deaths in police custody between 2008 and 2010 in British Columbia. Of those inquests, 13 deaths were related to substance use (over intoxication, toxicity, organ failure because of it, respiratory arrest, pneumonia, etc). A further 6 deaths were due to head injury. The remaining 4 deaths were either for unknown causes or other reasons.
List of deaths in custody since 2006 that may have been prevented by sobering centres
Selection of some of the organizations who are sending representatives: